Maker Faire Rome 2015 (MFR)
I just got back from Maker Faire Rome 2015 (MFR), where my friend Mr. Anjan Contractor and I spoke about how the Maker movement can help Engineers Without Borders.
MFR impressed on me that 3D printing continues to grow explosively.
We snuck in on Thursday night as the booths were being set up. The revolution is taking place by many baby steps, in a stream of evolution that I think has ripened into a revolution. There must be 20 firms making 3D printers and services. There is some redundancy in low-end printers (below $800), but in general each firm is adding a small new capability. The fact that so much of the 3D printing movement is open source, in software and hardware, enables this. Designers share printable designs via sites like Thingiverse.
In the courtyard of MFR, there stood a space frame 30 meters high and 12 meters across. It's purpose: 3D print in clay on a house-sized scale.
|http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:927907 -- by Andyroohoo|
|A Relatively Expensive ($2000) WASP Delta Printer|
3D printing frees the creator to make her gifts available more widely, just as photography democratized visual arts. As Edward Weston said, photography should make art affordable for everyone---and it has. In so doing, it made painting not less ubiquitous, but no less important.
3D printing will do the same for the sculptor. The sculptor and designer will be indistinguishable. Now, as John Ruskin and William Morris wanted, everything in your house can be beautiful and useful. We will be able to build lamps and tables which are not just stronger and cheaper, but far more beautiful, because they are freed from the cost of hand-manufacture. They will be made not "by hand", but "by mind".
Stronger, Faster, Cheaper
The most impressive thing I saw at MFR was OpenROV, an inexpensive underwater exploration submarine. This gentleman gave a talk about it right before our talk. The robot is the white thing on the table.
Of course 3D printers were used early to make architectural models:
Are you short? Or tall? Or fat, or thin? Do you want to see your alma mater's logo on everything? Now your chairs can be just right for you, because there is no reason they should not be tailored specifically to and for you. Today a wealthy man can have a bespoke suit. Tomorrow we can all have a bespoke furniture set, because it will cost nothing more to to customize it.
Eventually, there will be a machine that creates for you, cheaply and quickly, any beautiful object you may desire. Today, this can almost be done---in plastic. Tomorrow it will be done in bronze, or cut from marble, and whatever electronics you desire will be embedded within it at nominal cost.
Tomorrow when you read your child's favorite book to them at bedtime, you will be able to hand them a sculpture of each of their favorite scenes. The princess and her dragon will be there, glittering in glory, perhaps even ready to take wing---because, why not? Printing a flying toy dragon will be commonplace.
When an earthquake or a fire destroys your home, how long do you think it will take for us to rebuild it? Thirty days? Thirty hours? Thirty minutes?
H.P. Lovecraft wrote in At The Mountains of Madness of a space-faring race that used sculpture and bas-relief in place of writing. We may do this same. Trigonometry will now be explained with a manipulable object. You will see and feel the surface of the function. You will understand the four chambers of the heart better when we hand you one.
Our smartphones produce maps---why not models?
|http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:47622 -- work of ibudmen|
3D Printing vs. Other Technologies
Tim O'Reilly once said that he thought computer controlled manufacturing is the real story, of which 3D printing is just a subset. He is right, of course. At TechShop Austin, the 2D laser cutters are more heavily used than the 3D printers. Laser cutters can be similarly humanizing:
But of the CNC milling, laser cutting, and other related making technologies, none of them quite come as close to producing items of stand-alone value. None of them quite changed my way of thinking as much as my experience with 3D printing:
If you have any interest in this sort of thing do yourself a favor and find a way to borrow or rent the use of a 3D printer and print out a few objects.
This is a great time to become interested in 3D printing. Maker spaces commonly allow professional 3D printers to be shared as part of membership and offer support and community. I have enjoyed TechShop Austin because of the excellent advice and support given by their staff. Alternatively, you can just buy one for your home if you are willing to do some assembly and learning on your own. Here is a small basic model:
|A basic 3D printer at work|